What is Ranch Water? The Trendy Texas Tequila Cocktail Sweeping the Nation
To non-Texans, the name “ranch water” may not ring a bell. Nor may it even sound all that appetizing.
But that hasn’t stopped this easy-going three-ingredient cocktail from taking bars and convenience store shelves by storm over the last year.
Today, you’re likely to see countless canned versions of ranch water made by everyone from Modelo to Heineken, seeming hundreds of different variations served at bars with different twists and toppings, and a cavalcade of videos on TikTok claiming ranch water as the new “it” drink.
But what is ranch water anyway?
In its simplest form, ranch water is a highball made from tequila blanco, freshly squeezed lime and the signature addition of Topo Chico sparkling mineral water.
Topo Chico is a cult hit in its own right, rapidly gaining popularity with its stylish red and white logo among legions of sparkling water-adoring fans. Scientists have even conducted studies into the alleged “indisputable deliciousness” that is Topo Chico.
The beloved sparkling mineral water was invented in northern Mexico back in 1895. Though it’s still produced there to this day, the brand was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2017.
While several Texans have claimed to pour the iconic first splash of tequila blanco and lime into Topo Chico, credit for the drink’s current surge has largely been attributed to Ranch 616, where it’s said to have been invented, and the Gage Hotel, where it’s said to have been popularized.
Kevin Williamson, who opened Ranch 616 in 1998, conceived the drink as a hydrating cocktail for hot Texas summer days. He says he’d go on day-long hunts armed with a thermos filled with a margarita and plenty of ice. By the end of the day, the concoction would take on a totally different form.
“It tasted great,” says Williamson. “So by the time I was opening my own restaurant, I knew I wanted a tequila-water cocktail on the menu.”
Ranch 616’s recipe looks a little different than the ranch water we know and love today. There, they deliver a straight mix of Hornitos Reposado, Patron Citronge and freshly squeezed lime served with a 12-ounce bottle of Topo Chico on the side that customers can pour at their digression.
Williamson would eventually be hired at the Gage Hotel in 2010 to redo its kitchen and bar. There, ranch water would take another form.
At the Gage Hotel’s White Buffalo Bar, ranch water is made in the clear likeness of a margarita – a four-part mix of tequila, Cointreau, lime and Topo Chico.
However, things get a little hazy when you try to track how the Gage Hotel’s recipe got institutionalized nationwide as a decidedly different three-part cocktail.
All we know is that people took a liking to Williamson’s drink. It began to spread throughout West Texas, and by 2021 it was being served nationwide.
Nowadays, Topo Chico even makes their own canned ranch water, and Williamson says that Ranch 616 has sold over $18 million worth of ranch water to date.
Time will tell what new variations the drink’s popularity will bring.
In a world of extravagant, Drink Masters-esque cocktails topped with fancy foams and flakes of gold leaf, ranch water proves that simplicity can still be a smash hit.
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